Southern Maine’s arts and entertainment activities reach full throttle this week with the arrival of astronomical summer and the opening of a few of the season’s signature events.
“Anything Goes,” Cole Porter’s masterpiece of musical comedy, gets top billing in my estimation. Broadway star Andrea McArdle leads a wonderful cast of oddball characters who meet on a transatlantic ocean voyage, resulting in happy musical mayhem at Maine’s seaside resort of Ogunquit.
Portland String Quartet’s Maine Festival of American Music will wrap up this weekend at the quintessentially American venue of Shaker Village in New Gloucester.
The Bowdoin International Music Festival, by far Maine’s biggest summertime classical happening, launches its six-week season with a June 29 concert in Brunswick.
High comedy and romantic hijinks are the twin motors that power one of the most tuneful musicals ever presented on Broadway: Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes,” which currently rules the boards at Ogunquit Playhouse.
I’ve seen “Anything Goes” many times during the three decades that I’ve been reviewing theater. Ogunquit’s is by far the best.
The setting is a transatlantic ocean liner in the 1930s. The plot is pleasant nonsensical romantic comedy, revolving around a winsome ingenue, her aristocratic fiance, her ardent suitor and her overbearing mother. Then throw in a Wall Street tycoon, a nightclub chanteuse, a two-bit gangster, his ditsy moll plus a slew of dancing sailors and other characters.
The score could be a best-of compilation of Cole Porter tunes, including “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “You’re the Top,” “Easy to Love,” “It’s De-Lovely,” “Blow, Gabriel, Blow,” “All Through the Night,” and the title song.
Andrea McArdle leads the cast as the nightclub singer – what a fine voice and commanding stage presence – whose romantic meddling jump starts the action. Other top performers include Patti-Lee Meringo as the ingenue, Ian Knauer as the “wrong man” for her and Josh Canfield as her true love.
Top comic performers include Sally Struthers as the ingenue’s mom and the gangland duo of Ray DeMattis and Mychal Phillips.
Kudos are also earned by Jayme McDaniel at the helm, Charlie Reuter as music director and Derek McLane as scenic designer.
Ogunquit Playhouse, a mile south of the village on Route 1, presents “Anything Goes” through July 9. Call 646-5511 or visit OgunquitPlayhouse.org.
New Gloucester’s historic Shaker Village offers a vision of quintessential rural America, perhaps more so than any other spot in Maine. That’s one reason the Portland String Quartet chose the tiny hilltop hamlet as the venue for its Maine Festival of American Music, a multi-event happening that embraces a broad cultural swath. Performers include the PSQ itself, plus a variety of guest musicians, each with his own approach.
The festival’s three principal public events are slated for this Friday and Saturday. On June 24 the program will be “Rekindling the Spirit of Shaker Music,” and features mandolin virtuoso Chris Moore and a group of his students from 317 Main Street, a Yarmouth school that specializes in folk music.
On Saturday afternoon the featured artist will be Franco-American fiddler Don Roy and a program titled “Whirling Coat Tails.” Roy is an aural signature of the Pine Tree State: crisp, straightforward fiddling that is emblematic of Maine’s French-Canadian mill towns. His Saturday program will largely focus on traditional dance tunes
Saturday evening the PSQ will tackle a variety of classical music. The most intriguing – and least frequently performed work – will be “Lyric Quartette,” penned in 1960 by William Grant Still, who is often dubbed “the dean of African-American composers.” Another featured work will be a string quartet by American composer Norman Dello Joio, written on commission for the PSQ.
Most public events take place in the 1794 Meetinghouse, the architectural gem of the complex of buildings on old Route 26. For complete info, call the Shaker Village at 926-4597, or visit maineshakers.com/maine-festival-of-american-music.
Was classical music invented in Maine? Hardly, but a glance at our state’s summertime performing arts calendar might suggest that idea: There are about a dozen classical music festivals held each summer in Maine. By far the biggest is the Bowdoin International Music Festival in Brunswick, where something is happening six or seven days per week over a six-week time span. BIMF includes five principal concert series totaling about 50 different dates each summer.
BIMF launched in 1965 as part of the college’s summer program, but has been an independent, self-sustaining organization for more than a decade. Co-founder and artistic director for the first 50 years was Juilliard School professor Lewis Kaplan, who remains as faculty and performer.
Succeeding Kaplan are two brothers, Phillip and David Ying, who are entering their second season as co-artistic directors. The Yings grew up in suburban Chicago and they are the nucleus of the internationally renowned Ying Quartet. Phillip Ying is a viola virtuoso and brother David Ying plays cello. Their quartet has been in residence at BIMF for a decade.
The BIMF faculty numbers about 55, mostly top professors from conservatories around the world. There are about 240 students who range in age and performance level from pre-conservatory to post-graduate. They receive instruction and coaching in strings, piano and winds. Like their teachers, BIMF students hail from all corners of the globe.
The Yings have made few changes to the festival’s format, its mission or its roster of internationally renowned artists and instructors. The Yings have been especially emphatic in their support of BIMF’s longstanding support of contemporary composition.
From the concertgoer’s point of view, BIMF comprises three principal concert series plus a number of subsidiary or special-purpose events. Festival Fridays, July 1-Aug. 5, are the flagship concerts, performed at Brunswick High School. They feature both chamber and orchestral music; numerous guest artists also play on this series.
The other series are held at Studzinski Auditorium on the Bowdoin College campus. The Upbeat! series runs every Wednesday, June 29-Aug. 3. The Monday Showcase series is one area where the Yings have made a significant change: A quintet of world-class string quartets will perform, one per date, July 4-Aug. 1.
In addition to the three principal concert series, there is also the Gamper Festival of Contemporary Music, held during BIMF’s fifth weekend, and numerous concerts given by advanced students under the Artists of Tomorrow rubric. Plus there are a number of free concerts given at various Midcoast locations.
For the complete rundown on BIMF programming, artists and venues, call 725-3895 or check out bowdoinfestival.org.
Broadway star Andrea McArdle leads a cast of oddball characters on a transatlantic voyage that results in happy musical mayhem: